If you find yourself at Melbourne Park this week looking for an Aussie to support, look no further than New South Welshman, Matt Reid, who will be playing alongside good mate Jordan Thompson.
Reid and Thompson will open their campaign against fellow Australians Rinky Hijikata and Tristan Schoolkate.
Reid, currently 77 in the ATP doubles rankings, aside from his own career exploits, seemingly acts as a mentor, guidance counsellor, and life coach to a number of the younger Australians on tour.
The 31-year-old is often seen around the Davis Cup squad in his unofficial mentoring capacity as well as at ATP Tournaments alongside good friends Alex de Minaur, Jordan Thompson, Alexei Popyrin, and Nick Kyrgios.
Speaking to The First Serve’s Roddy Reynolds after going down in the semi-finals of the Sydney Tennis Classic alongside Popyrin to fellow Australian John Peers and Slovakian Filip Polasek, Reid noted “being Australian and travelling all year round is quite lonely. There’s a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes you do just need someone to talk to every now and then. There are a lot of challenging parts of tennis – not just the tennis that you see on TV.”
Reid’s multi-dimensional role as both career doubles player and mentor seemingly came about due to a passion for helping others.
After turning pro in 2009, Reid spent several years climbing his way up the ITF futures and challenger tours and ultimately reached a career-high singles ranking of 183 in early 2014.
However, Reid, who is admittedly “not the most self-motivated tennis player”, decided to solely focus on his doubles game following a discussion with Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt.
"I was speaking to Lleyton and he said 'why don't you try doubles?'"
Following this, Reid’s status as a doubles specialist has seen him improve his doubles ranking from 236 at the end of 2014 to a regular in the top 100 – consistently floating around his current mark.
In 2021, Reid played predominately on the challenger circuit and enjoyed a wonderful start to the year picking up wins in Biella, Marbella, and back-to-back trophies in Nottingham – all with different partners.
Yet Reid’s success was by no means guaranteed.
“[It was a] funny old year. I started off and I was actually thinking of stopping. Then I got dumped by my girlfriend and sort of thought I may as well go away, so I went away and it just clicked. I’m glad I was around good people all the time.”
But as is the way, life on the road can throw up some unwelcome surprises. Following his strong first half of the year, Reid contracted COVID-19 and injury struck.
“It sort of went downhill after playing with Alexei [Popyrin] in Atlanta”
“After I got COVID, I had a bad wrist injury.”
“I just wanted to go home but I couldn’t with the border issues and flights. I literally taped it as hard as I could to the point that I couldn’t feel my hand just to get through.”
“When I got home it was much worse than I thought.”
Surprisingly, having returned home and hired a new fitness trainer, Reid’s success at the Sydney Tennis Classic hasn’t got him thinking too far ahead.
“The mental ups and downs in tennis are ridiculous… for some reason every time I say this is my last week I play better. When I start looking ahead it all starts to go pear-shaped.”
“Hopefully my ranking can go higher. I’m lucky that I’ve got a few good friends who are really highly ranked and help me out a lot so hopefully, they can get me into a few [tour level] tournaments and we can sneak a few matches like this week.”
However, one gets the feeling that for all the opportunity Reid’s career possesses, he’s more interested in helping his mates fulfil their potential.
Despite not having a ranking reflective of a Davis Cup squad member, Reid is consistently called upon in a non-playing capacity to join Hewitt’s Davis Cup squad.
Initially brought into the team as a hitting partner, Reid’s personable and caring nature has seen him grow into something of a mentor to its squad members including Kyrgios, de Minaur, Thompson, and Popyrin – among others.
“I think initially I was more of a hitting partner kind of guy. As I got older, a lot of them started to open up to me. I’ve got a great relationship with a lot of the guys that play Davis Cup. For me, I think it’s pretty cool as I get to go to these great events.”
“At first I thought it was to keep a couple of the younger boys in check. But then I got to know them really well. I guess I’m a few years older so I’ve been around for longer. It’s mostly off-court stuff.”
“I remember training with Alex (de Minaur) when I was 20 and he was 12 with Wally Masur. Seeing how far [all the boys have] come is incredible and they’re all so humble as well.”
“Watching all the boys do well… you genuinely get goosebumps watching them.”
Like many of his peers, Reid is drawn to and appears to thrive off the team environment that Davis Cup provides in a sport that generally lacks such camaraderie. Having grown up dreaming of playing for the Wallabies, Reid states that being around the team is “like heaven”.
Furthermore, Reid’s mentorship has not been limited to the Davis Cup environment. In 2017, Nick Kyrgios asked Reid if he’d travel with him as his coach with the understanding that the pair would play doubles together where possible.
“He asked for me to come on as his coach but I saw it more as a friends type role. I didn’t tell him much anyway. I got to see a different side of tennis rather than the challengers and the futures. That’s when I saw how good the tour can be” Reid said of his time with Kyrgios.
“I always say it’s the most exciting two years of my life. Although it was pretty stressful too.”
While Reid no longer travels with Kyrgios he appears destined to continue coaching and supporting younger Australian’s beyond his playing career.
“I always said I’d try to get out of tennis. But as I’ve got older I’ve learned that one of my strengths is probably [fostering personal development in others] and helping out the younger boys”.
“If I could be involved in any way to get as many players in the top 50 or top 20 I’d absolutely love that.”
Interestingly, one of the tools utilised by Reid to keep the camaraderie up throughout the gruelling tennis season with his fellow Australian’s is a fantasy football competition.
Reid noted the competition was a great way to keep the boys together while on the road jumping from hotel to hotel.
Although it’s not all fun and games. These boys get serious.
By way of example, South Australian Alex Bolt is required to complete a marathon as punishment for his underwhelming fantasy performance.
As to how Bolt will find the time to complete a marathon in 2022 remains to be seen.
Ultimately, Reid serves as a crucial contributor to a number of our Aussie contingent on tour assisting them in being the best versions of themselves.
It’s hard not to admire a man who is more invested in the success of his friends than he is his own.
Perhaps with some good luck, hopefully, Reid and Thompson can ride crowd support deep in the men’s doubles draw. Although they’ll have to knock off a few Aussies along the way with either 5th seeds John Peers and Filip Polasek or John-Patrick Smith and Luke Saville waiting in the second round.